Join me and take a trip down memory lane to look at how the visibility of all dental practices has evolved in the last 15 years.
1992 – A brass plaque and a single line in Yellow Pages. Remember the days when the GDC took the view that advertising was bringing the profession into disrepute?
1997 – The only significance of this date is that it’s the year I arrived as a business consultant in dentistry and noticed that some of the forward-thinking practices were representing themselves, usually in one of two ways:
The Geographic Name: High Street Dental, The Clock Tower Dental
The Celebrity Name: John Smith Dental Surgeon or John Smith and Associates – often with the ubiquitous molar holding a toothbrush!
The Building: Cavendish House Dental Centre, The Old Barn – almost always with a black and white engraving of the front of the property.
2001 – Around about this time, we began to see some junior attempts at corporatisation and branding, notably the arrival of Dentics as a high street retailer of veneers and, of course, the mighty Boots Dentalcare. At this point (and no doubt bolstered up in confidence by the Boots price list) many independent practitioners began to hire graphic designers to do ‘something a bit different’ and we saw better logos and colour schemes, as well as practices that named themselves after the outcome they were trying to deliver: The Gentle Dental Centre, The Smile Clinic.
2009 – And so that trend has continued, as the rise and rise of the celebrity smile has infiltrated all socio-economic groups and the ‘signature smile’ is now sought after by all classes and backgrounds, encouraged by increasing media fascination with the dental appearance of talent-less people who are famous for being talent-less and famous (the new opium of the masses?).
So ‘The Brand’ has arrived in dentistry and it goes beyond marketing. ‘The Brand’:
Establishes how you are different from your competition
Adds value to the offer of a technical service that you deliver and enables the creation of a ‘branded experience’ for your clients
Allows you to connect with your patient (and/or your referring dentists) in a way that goes beyond just the dentistry
And ‘The Brand’ is brought to life in:
Your visual identity – the name of your business, the strap line, the logo, the colour scheme
Your employees – who live ‘The Brand’ in the way that they perform and behave
Your communications – the way you write, publish and speak to your audience
Your portfolio of products and services
Your dentistry – the way you do the thing you do
Your customer service – the way you look after your patients and your referrers
Your culture – the way you behave towards each other in the practice and your core values as a business
Your environment – the physical facilities both in surgery and in public areas
Ultimately, ‘The Brand’ finds its absolute test in the way you deliver your customer service. All the ‘fancy pants’ graphic design and interior refurbishment in the world can never compensate for one team member or dentist with a lousy attitude. In your customer service experience, you must deliver moments of delight that have a disproportionate effect on the patient or on the referring dentist. There are moments of truth in any customer service experience:
A first enquiry
A first phone call
Arrival at reception
The first consult
The treatment conversation
The treatment itself
And a properly branded business has each of these moments nailed as an opportunity to create a client for life and/or an advocate. So I am asking you a question here. Do you have ‘The Brand’ in your practice – a culture and an identity that embraces everything that you do and the way that you do it? When you walk into any Radisson SAS Hotel worldwide, you will find all staff sporting a lapel pin that reads, “Yes I can!” It’s difficult to get off brand when you are wearing the badge. And if you don’t have ‘The Brand’ – you need a branding consultant. The 21st Century Principal has to create a brand that will serve both the referring dentist (who is looking for clinical competence, great customer service for their patient, a suitably short waiting list, a lovely environment and a guarantee that a happy patient will return to them) and also serve the patient (all of the above plus reassurance that the dental experience will be as comfortable as possible and the price will be affordable). What is the future of ‘The Brand’ in dentistry? What will we see by 2012? I predict the emergence of:
Niche marketing – dentists deciding to offer their expertise to narrowly defined socio-economic, clinical or outcome-focused groups;
Web attraction – the use of web sites as a magnet for referrals or enquiries, rather than as just a virtual brochure;
Members-only practices – with substantial member benefits and loyalty reward schemes.
‘The Brand’ has arrived in dentistry – and you ignore that fact at your peril.